ECCHR supports the victims of corporate injustice before the US Supreme Court
30 December 2011 In 2011 ECCHR submitted two Amicus Briefs to the US Supreme Court in conjunction with the Center for Constitutional Rights (USA), other partner organizations and two international experts. The Supreme Court has been called upon by the claimants in the so-called Kiobel case to judge whether the Alien Torts Claims Act (ATCA) can be applied to corporations as legal persons under private law. This interpretation of the act was previously rejected by the competent court of appeal.
The original charge was filed according to the US-American Alien Torts Claims Act, a law which permits non-US claimants to proceed in the USA against non-US defendants for violations of customary international law that were not committed on US territory.
The Amicus Briefs submitted by ECCHR and its cooperating partners argue that a general, internationally recognized legal principle exists according to which domestic legislation may be used to hold corporations liable for human rights abuses. The legal opinions refer to a plethora of court cases and decisions in which national laws were used to find companies criminally or civilly liable for human rights violations. Deriving their conclusions from this general legal principle, the authors argue that the application of the ATCA in lawsuits against companies is in line with international practice.
The Kiobel case is a successor to the famous charge filed against Shell by relatives of the environmental activist Ken Saro Wiwa on the grounds of the corporation’s alleged involvement in his execution. In the Kiobel case, the plaintiffs argue that the oil company Shell transported Nigerian security forces via its Nigerian subsidiary, Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC), and that these forces were housed and fed on the corporation’s property. As such, they claim, Shell contributed to the crimes committed by the security forces, including torture and extrajudicial execution.